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            The Smash scene has always been something of a mystery to those outside the community. It is often isolated from other gaming communities and as a result few realize the draw and staying power the games have had for over half a decade. One of the staples of the Smash community are the occasional community run, grassroots national tournaments. The roots of these tournaments go all the way back to 2003, when Matt Deezie ran the very first Smash national tournament, TG4. Since that time dozens more have occurred and a few tournaments have even risen to the international level in scope. 

            One of these tournaments is coming this weekend. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in “Super Smash Bros. Thriving Across the Country” over at, in just a few short days the Smash scene is looking forward to the international tournament Apex 2012. The last international tournament occurred in the summer of 2011 with over 400 people attending and over $22,000 in prize money. At that tournament, Genesis II, a Melee player from outside the United States won for the first time ever. The player Armada, hailing from Sweden, had traveled to the United States repeatedly over the years but until 2011 had not finished higher than second in singles at a major US tournament. Unlike many other competitive games, the US has typically dominated the international scene and is often considered the best at both Brawl and Melee. This history goes all the way back to former world champion Ken Hoang winning the Jack Garden tournament in Japan in 2005.

Many players outside the United States have proven they can achieve great heights, but until Armada’s victory six months ago none had proven they had what it took to be a champion. At Apex 2012 the saga will continue, with Armada once again coming to the United States –only this time he will not be the underdog, but the defending champion. Apex 2012 will have a plethora of high-level players attending for both games. Melee, having such a long history, offers an interesting diversity in talent. At the top of the list are all former and current national champions. Dr Peepee, the Falco main who won Pound 5 in early 2011, is by many considered the favorite to challenge Armada. To win though he will have to overcome other champions like Hungrybox and his Jigglypuff. Hungrybox’s time at the top has been steady for years; he won Apex 2010 and is typically in the top 3 at major national tournaments. Probably the most electrifying Melee player though will be Mango, considered at one point to be the most dominant player after Ken, he has won multiple national tournaments since 2009 and he is considered a threat with many characters.

Moving past these national champions though are former Melee players and legends in their own right. Isai, former Major League Gaming Doubles National Champion in 2004, 2005, and 2006 and widely considered the best Smash 64 player ever, will be attending. MLG 2006 National Champion PC Chris should also be showing off his, possibly rusty but certainly thrilling, skills. Other players from the days that MLG held Melee include Chillin, KoreanDJ, and Azen—two of which won MLG tournaments in 2005 and 2006. Captain Jack has reportedly booked his flight from Japan, he had placed top 3 at MLG’s 2004 National Championship.  Looking at these players, the talent at Apex 2012 is almost surpassed by the long and storied history and it is anyone’s guess who’ll come out on top. 

For Brawl the event looks to be just as exciting. Apex 2010 winner, DEHF, is set to defend his crown and shake off what was likely a bit disappointing 2010 MLG season. The player currently considered the best at Brawl will surely give DEHF one of his biggest obstacles in defending his crown. Since taking 4th place at MLG’s 2010 National Championship, Ally has been on a rampage, winning over 20 tournaments in the last year alone, including the national Pound 5. He is the first player since Brawl’s release to overtake Mew2King in the SWF Rankings, a catalogue of over 4,500 unique players and 500 tournaments occurring in the last year alone. Other challenges to DEHF include Mr. R, considered one of the best Marth players and the best player from Europe.


While the competition will be fierce from all the aforementioned players, probably the most exciting matches will come from the Japanese. So far over ten Japanese players are slated to travel to Apex 2012. Among them was the Apex 2010 Runner-up, Brood, who showed the US players that Olimar can compete on an entirely different level. He stands as one of the only players to ever defeat both Ally and Mew2King in the same tournament. Another Japanese player, Kakera, is believed to have a Meta Knight that rivals Mew2King’s and many are looking forward to a potential showdown between the two. Finally, there is Nietono, who’s Olimar is held as the best in the world and who is frequently referred to as the best player in Japan.

All of these international players will be fighting a slew of American goliaths. The best of the US includes ADHD (Diddy Kong), Anti (Meta Knight), Atomsk (everything), NickRiddle (Zero Suit Samus), and ESAM (Pikachu). Many of these players are considered the best in the country with their character. 2010 MLG National Champion and winner of $12,500, Gnes, will grace the tournament and hopes are high for his and other Texas’ player’s attendance. Likely the odds-on favorite to win the tournament is Mew2King though, who despite a surge from Ally is still the most consistent Brawl player of the last four years. Mew2King has mentioned Apex 2012 may be his last tournament and a competitor at his level will always want to go out on top. He will be entering both Brawl and Melee and stands to win upwards of $10,000 if he performs well in both games.

Though the tournament is just three days away and already records have been set. With 410 Unique Brawl entrances it will be the largest Brawl tournament in history. The experience lasts three days from January 6th-8th, and aside from all three Smash games will also include competitions for Super Street Fighter IV AE, Ultimate Marvel v Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 9, and even Pokemon Black/White. If you live near the New Jersey area and don’t wish to enter a tournament but want to check it out, spectator passes are a mere $10. Registration will be taken at the door for Super Street Fighter IV AE, Ultimate Marvel v Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 9, and Pokemon. This is huge considering the recently EVO2k12 announced that Apex 2012 will be its kickoff event for their Road to EVO. 

  • 410 Brawl Entrants (Largest Ever)
  • 330 Melee Entrants (2nd Largest Ever)
  • 64 Smash 64 Entrants (Largest Ever)
  • 84 (and counting...) Traditional Fighting Games
  • 3 Days
  • Over $15,000 in prizes
  • Professional quality stream so all the action can be watched from home
  • First Smash tournament to also be an EVO qualifing event
Brackets and Pools
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Interested in Apex 2012? Post who you think will win in the comments!

*Photo Credits: PBnJ,,

Part 2 of the article posted just a few weeks go, titled "What is your Approach", that actually had nothing to do with in-game approaching.  : )
It's a little awkward since this was just a long example of approaching one game with experience from another behind you, so while it's not as informative, and it feels totally disjointed when separated, it's still a good supplement.

It is also very important that you realize that this was never intended to be a guide on transitioning from Brawl to Melee; I just used that as an example.  More experienced players will probably rip this apart (as will some scrubs), but I honestly don't care.  If you're a scrub, not learning anything from this wont help you, and if you're better than me, you probably wouldn't learn much from this anyway since it's not really directed towards you.

Let's start with crossing over from Brawl to Melee, since it seems like many people started with Brawl and are possibly interested in picking Melee up.

Brawl to Melee:  Where to begin?
First off, you absolutely need to just play the game and feel how different it is.  Movement speed is faster, fallspeed is faster, you can cut your lag on aerials (L-cancel) causing game play to move even faster than that, there's no momentum canceling, there's more hitstun... lots of differences.  Also, even if you play the same character in Brawl and Melee, the properties of his/her moves are different, so you'll have to relearn what they do.

Now that you have a feel for the game (and this should be natural by like the 2nd or 3rd time you've played, even if you're not perfect), you need to start working on improving your game play.  Where do you want to start?

"Where do I want to start?  I don't know where to begin!"

Well, you're on AiB, so you don't even have to go looking for a resource.  I'll tell you what you can start with.

Technical skill
Tech/DI chasing (the closest to Yomi you'll get with Smash, Yomi being the act of mind reading)
Reaction time

Needs to be broken down a little bit further right?  I'm sure you know what all of these are if you played Brawl (some of these are self explanatory too), but there are some huge differences.

Technical Skill
This is first because it seems like everyone starts here.  Really, it's important, and if you're coming off of Brawl you probably could start here.  However, technical skill is not the way to be the best - it's just necessary to bring your game to a certain level.  Having the most technical skill around doesn't guarantee that you're good.

Or maybe you are good... and you're just showing off?  : )

One time at a tournament I went to, I brought along a little adapter that allows one to use a PS2 controller on the GC (and therefore the Wii).  I brought it for Guilty Gear, but we decided to mess around and try using it on Brawl/Melee.  Pat attempted to use it and didn't like the feel, saying it was unresponsive, and having a difficult time performing moves that were quite technical but would normally give him no problem.
Then MikeHaze grabs the controller and consistently DSHLs with Fox for about 5 seconds straight.  We all got a good laugh.

Now, MikeHaze is pretty damn good (and that feels like an understatement), but was he #1 at Melee?  No.

But his manual dexterity and adaptation allowed him to deal with that situation with ease.  He can pull off some amazing tricks, but that doesn't make you the best.  You only need the skill to pull off what you need to do to win.  Every extra option you have puts you a step closer to winning because you have more options that can work in more scenarios, but that isn't the end-all ability that makes you win consistently.

Let me put it this way.  You need to L-cancel consistently to be able to perform many combos in Melee, and the reduced lag certainly doesn't hurt in keeping you from being punished, but do you absolutely need to L-cancel to play Jigglypuff effectively?  I'm worse now that my technical skill has dropped, but my Jigglypuff is still fine - I'm in the air 90% of the time, and most of my other skills haven't deteriorated.

Or when I play Bowser...  heh, what combos do I need to worry about.  It's just like playing Brawl.  : )

J/K, but you get my point.  I'm not wavedashing much with Bowser (more now that I worked out some stuff messing around like a month ago, realized that you can fullhop Fair, double jump Fair, and then waveland if your timing is perfect - it looks sexy), and I don't need to focus too much on DI chasing or anything of the sort because you're just landing a hit, spacing, landing a hit... it's really a lot like playing Brawl, but faster.

If you want to practice your technical skill right away, you need experience with your fallspeed and moves to know how to L-cancel, but Link is a good character to start with to see if you're even doing it right.  Wavedashing?  Start with Luigi.  Boost grabbing?  Start with Kirby.

Technical skill is the sort of thing you'll get practice in as you go - you only need to go out of your way for at the beginning to make sure you're doing it right, or when you're trying out a new trick (such as that Fair Fair waveland thing I mentioned above, the timing is strict, and I'll never dream of using it in a match unless I can do it reliably in practice).

Playing even 20 minutes a day against comps is good enough practice for your technical skill when you're playing Melee.  The comps might not DI properly, but you can work on stringing your moves together, you can work on not messing up those L-cancels, and you can work on powershielding projectiles just because you feel like it.  Really, they might not DI in the best way possible to avoid follow ups, but when you play a match and your opponent intentionally DIs differently, what are you going to do?  Miss the follow up because you didn't practice it because pros wouldn't do it differently?  How stupid is that?

And if you played a character with some degree of technical skill in Brawl (Diddy infinite?), you might pick it up a bit faster in Melee, though I honestly think that playing Melee will help you to FIND technical skill in Brawl.  I wouldn't be as good with the tires/bike as I am, without practicing regularly, if I hadn't used Link so much in Melee.

This doesn't apply in other games, and it's different in Melee than it is in Brawl.  Everyone generally recovers better in Brawl than in Melee, but the approach is pretty much the same - just don't be reckless and get yourself killed in the process.  Basically, you need to practice it, but you need to know when it's effective to do so - you can practice your crazy intercepts on comps, but don't bother picking Marth, standing on the edge, and using Dtilt/Fsmash until the comp dies - they wont recover past like 20% from this because they're idiots, and the rest of your game will suffer because of your easy wins vs. the comps.  That said, you can still work on spikes and other techniques that really wont work, so long as you don't rely on them.  Know that you could probably Uthrow to Dair spike a comp Falco at the edge with Marth if he DIs stupidly because it'll pwn newbs and help you beat them more consistently, but also know that attempting it against a competent opponent will get you punished.

Recovery is a lot different now, right?  As you adjust to the differences in mechanics, you'll just get better at this.  It's just one of those skills that builds up over time - you'll get better from playing competent opponents though - you'll learn to approach the edge in ways that'll mindgame them into edgeguarding poorly, and learn to approach the edge from positions where you have more options.  If the same recovery always works, you'll never learn anything new.
Comps are relentless with this, but they're also pretty stupid about it.  They'll perfectly time a jab as you come back to the edge just to piss you off, and yet, wont take opportunities to kill you because they don't know how.

You're on AiB, so check out the forums.  You can also try out SWF if you want - look up the major differences (like crouch canceling) so that you can learn them.  If you're still trying to momentum cancel while I'm crouch canceling everything, you're falling way behind.  If you don't know that Peach's Dsmash comes out on frame 5, you're going to get punished by it a lot.  If you didn't know that Fox's reflector has set knockback, you'd never think to try to shinespike someone with it.  Learn all that you can - you can do this by spending time messing around, or by looking up what other people have documented on some forums like I explained above.  This is a crucial step - you'll never catch up unless you know what others know, and you'll have a hard time surpassing them if you don't discover something they don't know.  R&D is critical near the top of the metagame if you get that far, and it will certainly help if you find something useful even when you're nowhere near ready to win a tournament.
(Really, they demonstrate technical skill, but you need to know this is possible before you can do it right?)

Spacing is pretty crucial in any fighting game, right?  Since Smash has so much freedom of movement, you really have to get used to your character's movement speeds.  Jiggs is fast in the air, Fox is fast on the ground, Marth has disjointed range.  You'll learn to space your attacks vs. comps, but proper positional spacing comes from playing other people.  Comps just walk towards you, so they're worthless in this respect, but at least you can work on landing those tippers or finding out just how far away you can be and still land Pound.  If your spacing is lacking, you need to make a conscious effort to move into the correct spot until it becomes natural.

Spacing is truly a key component of Smash.  Proper spacing means the difference between a hit and a whiff, on both your end and the opponent's.  Don't get hit, every time you land a hit, combo and reap the rewards.

As simple as this seems to be, spacing really is important.  Smash might be one of the few games I know of where you can die without even getting hit once, but that probably wont happen in a tournament match.  You have to land hits if you want to defeat your opponents, and you wont lose if you don't get hit.

Really, I would say the best spacing practice comes from playing other people, though that doesn't mean playing with comps will absolutely make you worse every time you do it.  If you can't beat a comp, any human player you can beat is most likely not worth playing against.

Coming into Melee from Brawl, this will probably feel the most intuitive to you, and you should pick it up pretty fast, despite the physics being totally different.  I would go as far as to say part of the reason my Jiggs hasn't deteriorated as much as my other characters is because I play Wario, who spaces kind of like Jiggs.

Tech/DI chasing
A crucial aspect of Smash, since most other fighting games have nothing like directional influence in any form (there are some - you can begin to DI a juggle in Soul Calibur 2 past 1 hit in the air).  You have to learn how far they can go in which direction after any hit at any percentage... it's really a matter more of adaptation than memorization.  You know it's possible to go for this or that, so you do what's appropriate based on the DI you see.  Having the reaction time to see what DI your opponent used is one of the key components - did he go left or right or up out of my Dthrow?  I better not mess up or I'll lose my chaingrab.
I just knocked my opponent onto a platform.  Will he stand, or rolldodge to one side?  I put myself in the proper position (spacing) and watch what he's doing (reaction time + tech chasing) and I'll land Rest.

Can you see how it's coming together?
Sometimes you don't have enough time to space to where it's going to work - now it's like yomi.  You have to just know what they're going to do and punish accordingly - just don't always assume this is the case when you actually have the time to think about it, because you can mess up and miss your chance.  You know when you watch someone like DSF play and he ALWAYS gets that punish or chaingrab?  It's because he's not guessing every time the chance comes up...

Yomi does play a big role in other fighting games, but in Smash there are fewer circumstances where you have to make an educated guess to get your follow up since you can actually react.  However, I'm sure everyone's seen some videos of tournament matches with hilarious mindgames... examples?

Reaction Time
A very helpful trait in any scenario, but having the fastest reaction time isn't enough - it just brings more to the table.  This will improve as you focus during any serious match against a competent opponent, and your ability to react will improve as you become more familiar with the game.  When you start playing Melee, moves like Fox's blaster just seem to happen, but as you keep playing, you'll see the startup an hour before the hitbox comes out, and now powershielding that lightning fast projectile isn't even hard (though there's little point if he fires more than one shot, it's pretty stylish if a Fox player tries to get that extra 2% tacked on at the end of a combo by firing, and you tech and powershield it).

You can go out of your way to learn to spot the parts of moves that are telegraphed - that falls under knowlege in all honesty, but combine it with your ever improving reaction time and you're moving up in the world - so much more becomes possible.
And with high end reaction time, you can go as far as to powershield Falco's SHL while wavedashing back and forth with Luigi.  That won't make you the best player around, but damn will that piss off a Falco player.  : )

It's a skill that comes with experience.  The more you're familiar with, the easier you can adapt.  If someone starts doing something you've never seen before, you're more likely to adapt if you can figure out what they're doing and why.  When everyone plays by the book, even if they're a little quirky, it's not that hard to adapt to their playstyles.  Spend some time messing around and doing your research - if you know a certain property or mechanic about the game that you didn't before, and you one day run into someone that can abuse it effectively, you're more likely to find a way around it.

Is this really going to help me out?
Try it and tell me if it did.  -_-;

Do you notice how I left comboing out?  It's certainly a specific skill when it comes to fighting games, but with Smash, it really falls under having the technical skill to actually have a window in which you can follow up, the reaction time to properly DI/Tech chase, and proper spacing so that you'll land that first hit.  You put it all together and you can now make your follow up assault... and maybe keep it up.

In the event that you really want to focus on one skill over another, it can be hard to get into the swing of things since everything builds up.  You're going to get punished for your bad spacing every time, so you'll never even have the opportunity to work on your tech skill.  This will force you to learn better spacing, but let's say while you're working on that, you actually land a hit or get an opening for one.  Now what?  You can't L-cancel yet, so your reward is much smaller than it should be since you can't really combo.

You can work around it.  Play Jiggs - you focus on your aerial spacing with little worry of technical skill.  You land that hit?  Great, keep flying at them with Bair and wall of pain.  Landed a grab below a platform?  Great, Uthrow and tech chase for Rest.  Don't even have to worry about messing up that L-cancel.

Play Bowser - every hit is a freaking reward, and you don't really need to worry about follow ups.  Worry about L-canceling that Fair and using upB out of shield properly.  Play smart, develop those techniques.  It's not like you're going to become the next Gimpyfish, but learning a character whose gameplay revolves around certain aspects will help you to learn those skills.

Then, you can play Luigi.  Now you're working wavedashing into your game (he's got a damn good one), and L-canceling will help you to work on your combos.

It's less apparent in Smash how doing this will make a difference, but you'd notice if you played Guilty Gear.  Millia has sexy Oki, May will rape you out of successful pokes though she's not very good at poking, Venom seems to have pretty amazing shield pressure options... coming into May out of playing Millia and Baiken, as well as having experience with Wario's bike/tires, I pretty much know how I want to space with May's dolphin hoops (Millia's strong Oki comes from using a delayed independent hitbox (like May's hoops, and this is a topic I'll get into with a later article) to pressure a guard (or another viable option to escape getting hit), and having multiple ways to punish those options).  I'm still dropping combos, though I'll john that it's just from messing up inputs since I switch controllers too much (I prefer the GC control stick to the PS2 D-pad), yet I can keep up because I manage to land way more pokes than I should need to when playing May.

In the long run, if you see that a character is strong in a specific area, or relies on a specific area of gameplay, learning that character will make you better, either because it works, or out of pure necessity (you have to L-cancel when you play Bowser or you really wont stand much of a chance).  On that note, if you actually do try to make that transition, it might be easy to start with a character that moves like your Brawl main (since you wont be overwhelmed by losing a stock due to getting comboed because of your bad spacing, every 5 seconds), until you experiment around and find the character you really want to play.

Anyway, this probably isn't as good a read as the last one, but that's because this chunk was cut out, and was barely altered after having a lot of it explained in the previous one.  Part 3 is coming up soon to wrap it all up, and then we'll get into something more direct...
What is your approach?

It seems as if many of the people I talk to lack certain perspectives when it comes to learning something - that is, they haven't quite learned how to learn.  When trying to get good at videogames, I see a lot of people do the same exact thing over and over again without any improvement (DERP), and wonder what's going wrong.  I see it a lot when it comes to stuff besides videogames, but that's outside the scope of this website.

You can get quite far on just practicing and being gung-ho, but if that isn't doing it for you, break it down and actually THINK.  I don't mean "what am I doing wrong?"  You should already be thinking that, as well as "What am I doing right?"  You need to think about every aspect of everything, really learn what you're trying to accomplish.  When you're playing a videogame in competition, it's the same as playing football in the NFL, Curling at the Olympics, or playing Chess - know the freaking game.  Know what your limitations are, know what the rules are, and learn every thing you can before you think you can win.

However, some of you make this sort of effort and are still having trouble.  You put in time and effort, but no results.  What's going wrong?  Break it down.  There are many aspects to each game - you'll learn faster from the start if you know what to learn, and you'll improve faster if you know what to improve on.  Those of you that have prior experience are at an advantage.

Does knowing how to play other games really make a difference?
Yes.  Your skills will transfer over.  This is why TheMasterer in PurePwnage says "You must pwn at all games."  Being great at Halo won't help you play Brawl as much as being great at Melee would, but at least you'll know what to look for.  And if you ever play another FPS, you already know what to look for.  When it comes to FPS, once you learn the properties of the weapons and the maps, the skill of getting a headshot is transferable.  You can't transfer that over to Melee, but maybe your reaction time will have improved - that's a plus.  Maybe you're experienced with mindgames/yomi at this point - they know you have a positional advantage if you do this, so they expect it and counter, so you move somewhere else to counter that counter - that transfers to other games.  Maybe you played Starcraft?  Different controller for sure, but your intense button micro should help you to pick up Melee faster.  You can focus on the ins and outs of the game play without worrying too much about your technical skill holding you back since you'll pick it up quickly. 

I want you to try thinking in terms of individual skill sets that you can practice, so that you'll realize what activities will help you to practice which skills, and what practice will do more or less for you in the long run - you'll be more efficient that way.

It is at this point that I want to tell you all that this article has been rewritten.  As a whole, it was too long to be put on the front page because few people like to stare at a wall of text.  For those of you that want to read the original version, you can go here:

Now, since my 2 examples of ways to approach learning a new game have been cut out (they will be posted at a later date on the front page, so don't worry), I feel that I need to give you something more substantial than "Don't be stupid, learn the game, suck less." 

I wonder, what is the first thing you do when you pick up a new game that you intend to be really good at (like, top 10 tournament placing good)?  Have you ever thought about it yourself?  Do you just pick up the game and start playing?  Do you go into training mode?

There's no right answer, but the best answer definitely depends on your prior experience.  I do think you'll get more out of just starting the game up and playing it, but how long you're just messing around playing arcade mode or vs comps or whatever the hell you want to do is what matters.  Once you've learned the basic barebones mechanics from playing the game, whether it be learning that you can airdodge in smash or learning what a burst is in BB, you need to at least look into the specifics.  I don't mean reading framerate data for a few hours once you learn what the buttons do - I mean making an effort to learn that first character you decided you're going to start with, and at this point it doesn't even matter who that is or if you're going to change your mind in 30 minutes.

I'll just pretend we're picking up Brawl for the first time here, and that we've never played before (hard to imagine since I've been playing Smash since SSB64 came out).  Let's go right into versus mode because we're assuming you want to get as good at the competitive aspects as possible, as fast as possible.  You pick a character... let's say Link (because he's Link, and he's cool).  You turn on a comp, set it to lvl 3 because that's the default.  Turn off items because you know its convention, pick battlefield.

So if you're like most young kids when you start, you're just holding the analog stick towards the comp and pressing buttons because you want to win your first game.  If you're trying to learn what you're doing, you're pressing the buttons to see what they do ("how do I jump?  How do I attack?  How do I shot web?  O lookie, I can roll!").  You're probably getting hit by the comp every few moments, but you're probably hitting the comp back as you figure out what attacks you have.  Maybe you notice you have F-tilt, your smashes, grab, and some of the B moves, but odds are you don't realize what's making certain things happen right away.  You might just barely realize what tilts are by the end of the first match, and you've probably SDed at least once because you don't fully know how fallspeed and recovery work.  You play again and start paying closer attention to what your character does and how the moves work.  Now you start actually trying to kill the computer.  You win a match, switch characters.

You pick Wario.  The game starts and "Whoa, I move fast!"  Yeah, compared to Link, you're moving pretty damn fast in the air.  Then you notice that the comp Marth you're playing against keeps hitting you through your moves, and maybe you get frustrated.  You know it's because he has a sword and you don't, but you don't know what his moves are like that well to be able to punish them, or what your own are to know what your best options are, so you start messing around again.  Your tools are totally different, you move faster and are harder to control, Marth has his sword which is "cheap" compared to your bare hands (assuming you'd be quite scrubby if you've never played a fighting game before), and you have no projectiles.  Wario sucks, let's pick someone else.

You go through the character roster looking for someone you like, and once you find that character, you just start playing.  You want to be the best like no one ever was, but you're off to a slow start.  That character you picked is working well for you, but you don't even know why.  You just know that he/she is good, so you're trying to get good with him/her.

Let's say you start the game up having played some Guilty Gear and entered a few local tourneys.  You don't know what Brawl is like, but you were competitive at another fighting game, so you have an advantage.  No idea who you want to main, but you played Millia (just using her for a specific example since I actually know how she works), so you're looking for similar tools since that'll be familiar.

You pick Link at first, and you set up vs a lvl 3 comp because that's the default setting.  You start up and hit each button once to see what they do, realize you've only done like 4 different moves (jab, neutral B, jump, and grab, besides blocking).  Wow, there's a separate block button.  WOW, I don't have hp???  Wtf, there's only one gatling (his jab combo) and they can escape it?  No moves link together?  Wtf is this?  How do I kill the guy?
You you mess around until you learn the fundamentals of the game.  You realize you win by ring out - not by damage.  You realize that you have a dodge mechanic, and you realize that it's not the standard 2D fighter you're used to (instead of front/back movement, it's full on left/right).

So at the back of your mind, you think "I wonder if there's any move that I could use to kill at lower damage", and with good reason.  You start trying to gimp the computer instead of working on your spacing game.  You win because it's a stupid comp.

Now, you go into training mode.  With a few minutes, you realize how tilts work, and you figure out your other B moves.  "Ok, I have a projectile, and... oh lookie, Bombs!"  You have a move that's a separate hitbox that you can throw upwards into the air and have it come back down as you're doing something else.  "Oh dude, a boomerang?"
At this point, you realize you have something similar to Millia - her 236H move was an attack with delayed startup that you could activate and then have pressure while you did something else.  You keep going and see how grabs don't have instant startup, and overall learn all your moves.  You don't like Link because he's way too damn slow compared to Millia.

You switch to Wario to see if he's any faster (because you'd like a character that actually has endurance compared to Millia, lol).  You jump around, see that he's freaking fast in the air (Millia is a rushdown character with 2 airdashes), so you decide to actually learn this character first.  You go through and learn all of his moves.  "Whoa, he has a motorcycle, that's pretty cool."  You realize you can throw it into the air and it'll come back down and bounce multiple times, while staying an active hitbox.  You figure this guy is perfect to start with because he fits the bill.  He has an active hitbox which is separate from yourself (similar tools), he's fast in the air (like Millia), and he's heavy (cool bonus).  You also notice his bite, which is a grab, and that it can be held out for a while.

You play another match with a computer, crank the difficulty up to 5 because 3 wasn't an issue, even though you didn't really know what you were doing.  Now, things are quite different even though you have similar tools - you're not just trying to cause knockdown so you can set the bike up for pressure because no such method to do so exists for this character, and even if it did, you realize this game has teching in it.  You're resourceful, so you get the comp off the stage, pull a bike, and throw it off.  Success!  The comp is too stupid to recover correctly, wastes its jumps trying to get past the bike, and dies.  Repeat X2.  Wow.

One more game, crank it up to 9 because this feels too easy.  Now you're having a hard time getting the comp off the stage, and it's smarter, so it's not just getting gimped every time you do so.  It seems to have perfect blocking and dodging, and it always punishes you.  Maybe you shouldn't have cranked it so far so quickly, but you keep going, landing hits once in a while.  At this point you've noticed that the comp isn't comboing you very much either - I guess that's just the way this game is?  Instead of going for a safe poke and then getting the highest reward possible out of it, you have to build damage with whatever works, and then make an effort to send them past the blast line.  However, you do notice that some moves do link together just barely, no matter how fast you try to airdodge away, so maybe some 2 hit combos are possible.  The comp lives till like 200% because you're not used to it.  You lose, but you took off a stock.

As you're playing this time, you notice that moves are doing less damage and knockback as you do them over and over (you're Dair spamming since it seems to work well vs the comp - they perfect block the first hit, but get hit by the rest, or if they keep their shield up, you Bite them), so you come to realize that's how the game works.  Now you're looking closer at the moves, trying to see exactly what properties each one has.  Maybe some have the ability to link into something else, maybe some do low damage but are kills, maybe some do high damage but suck for killing - you don't know yet, but you're working on it.

At this point, let's stop and break it down.  With this prior experience, you're getting further, but for what reason exactly?
First off, you know that a crucial tactic is to find the safest way to deal as much damage as possible, or maybe in this case, the safest way to kill without doing much damage (why do damage when you don't have to?).  You haven't found any combos, but you know they could exist.  You've noticed that stronger moves tend to be a bit slower overall, but if you can combo into them, even if it's just that 2nd hit, it's rewarding - once they're ready to die, why risk that Dsmash by itself when you can Fair into Fsmash?

You know you punish shields with a grab, and you know you get around grabs with a dodge, but having played Wario, you know a more effective move - you use the bite instead of a grab, it punishes dodges too.  You know you can throw the bike for that long lasting hitbox, and if they block, you can try to grab to punish anyway - though it is risky to pull the bike out.

The biggest difference here is that you had a feeling of where to start and where you were going next.  You still have a lot to learn, but your foundation is solid from the first time you started playing.

Anyway, I have a feeling this is longer than it originally was, so I have to cut it off here.  There are certain aspects to quick improvement that expand beyond seeing the basics faster and learning the game - if you know what okizemi is at the start, you know to look for tools to utilize it, and if you're playing a game that actually supports it (like transitioning from Guilty Gear to BlazBlue), the improvement is astronomically faster - you don't have to work at spacing right from the start to land hits if you know how to keep oki in your favor from your first knockdown.  Think rock paper scissors, only guessing right gets you another combo, guessing wrong means you have to back off and approach again, and both of you guessing wrong could go either way (you see it faster and keep the advantage or your opponent sees it and takes it from you).

Think of it this way - if you don't know what moves you have to space around with, but you know how to knock the guy down repeatedly and continuously do damage, you're still winning.  Once you learn to space, and that's your main focus at this point, you now know how to get that first knockdown.  The whole match isn't dependent on you getting a single knockdown so that you have a chance to win - now it's an even match, but if you get a knockdown, you have a serious advantage.  Make sense?

If you play Brawl (or any game) and are wondering why you're not getting better, I encourage you to take a second look at how you're approaching the game.  The rabbit-hole goes much deeper than this... you'll get more info out of me in the coming weeks.

And if you want something to read while you wait, look up Sirlin's "Playing to Win".
Get ready for the craziest article yet! Were diving straight into everyone’s favorite subject: grab releases! We can’t cover every character of course, so we’ll start with one of my favorites and yours: MARTH! Sit back and enjoy the grabbing madness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every game has its Tricks, Glitches and Combos and Brawl is full of the shtuff! Upon its release nothing was known about the game and the secrets it held, but now they’re used by the bundle in every match and every set played! Some are used very seriously and some are used merely for fun. That’s why we’re here to show you what’s up even if it’s just for laughs! Let’s spice up your day with some SMASH! =D

Continue reading Tricks, Glitches & Combos! IX
Tags: Marth, joer, grabs